President-elect Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington and on Wall Street, but it looks like he might be building a retention pond instead.
Trump announced on Wednesday that billionaire businessman Elon Musk was joining the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, a group that advises the President-elect on economic matters. Musk joins other business leaders such as former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon, and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
Musk is the latest Trump economic team member who has been criticized as embracing cronyism over genuine free markets. He is the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla Motors, which has survived largely because of government handouts. Tesla, along with Musk’s other companies, Space X and SolarCity, have received nearly $5 billion in government subsidies over the past decade.
Many of the subsidies are given in the form of tax rebates for those who buy Tesla cars or install SolarCity rooftop solar systems. Only the wealthy and upper middle classes can usually afford these products.
This is the worst kind of cronyism because it takes money from poor and middle class Americans and redistributes those dollars to the wealthy.
Musk is not the only Trump economic adviser who appears to be allergic to free markets. Trump has tapped several men who have ties to Goldman Sachs, the infamous Wall Street investment bank known for its deep ties to Washington D.C. politicians.
This is a far cry from the Republican primary when Trump attacked his presidential rival, Republican Senator Ted Cruz over his wife’s ties to the bank.
Trump has tapped Goldman Sachs’ Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn to chair the National Economic Council. Cohn allegedly once lashed out at then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accepting Wall Street donations and then passing new regulations against them. “We’re sick of the bullshit,” Cohn told Reid at a fundraiser. Cohn seems to have expected his political contributions to buy favors from politicians.
Also joining Cohn and Musk on Trump’s economic team is Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs partner who Trump has nominated for Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin is a former employee of left-wing financier George Soros and has a history of donating to Democratic Party candidates. Mnuchin was also the former head of OneWest Bank, which engaged in numerous shady foreclosure practices after the housing market crash.
Mnuchin was also very clear in why he backed Trump, telling Bloomberg he was looking for a job in the Trump administration if his candidate won. It appears Mnuchin will get his wish.
Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary is Wilbur Ross. Ross is a billionaire investor and a committed protectionist on trade. Ross himself is a major investor in steel and textile manufacturing, which would benefit from more protectionist trade policies. You can even argue that the only winners when using protectionist trade policies are politically connected companies.
Many of Trump’s economic advisers have used government connections to make themselves and their companies wealthy. It makes you wonder just how friendly to free markets a Trump administration will be.